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Last Name First

I’ve long been aware of the puzzling and annoying habit that boys and men have of calling each other by their last names.  I have never gotten it and I don’t get it now, but I’ve been sucked in.

As some of you already know, I work for a trucking company and it’s a gross understatement to call it a male dominated industry.  There are plenty of women who work for the company, but the bulk of the people I deal with every day – the drivers – are men.  Our office has a fleet of fifty-one drivers.  Fifty are male.  The fifty-first might by a mythical fantasy, because I haven’t met her, and I’ll believe it when I see her.  Day in, day out, I’m drowning in testosterone.  I suppose it’s only natural that I would pick up some of their inexplicable male habits, but oh, how I’ve fought it.  For years I have fought the battle of last names.  I made slight concessions over the years. For instance, our bosses are referred to by last name only, so if you talk to someone about Brian, Jim or Jeff, you get blank stares.  So I called them by their last names for purposes of identification. Ah, what a slippery slope…

(interesting side note: I have found that the “name game” does not apply to the very high-ranking bosses.  It appears that you need to reach VP status to get the first name only treatment, but should you reach the impressive President level, you shall be called by first and last name, said together, at all times.  By this point, it probably goes without saying that my company is not one for formalities and the only one who gets the “Mr.” treatment is our founder.  And even then, only to his face.  Not that I’ve ever spoken to his face, but that’s neither here nor there.  Now back to tumbling down my slippery slope.)

So, I think we can all agree that last names are preferable when identification is an issue.  Which, as I’m sure you can imagine, can happen with 50 men working out of one office.  If you speak of “Mike,” you will soon tire of answering the inevitable follow-up inquiry, “Which one?” and you will henceforth call him by last name only.  So gradually all the Mikes became last name guys.  Next came the Jims.  You see where this is going, I’m sure.  Before I knew it, they were all last name guys, for no other reason than my enjoyment of calling people by their last names.  What has happened to me?!

Well, I’ll tell you.  I’m one of the guys.  I’m not called by my last name, since I am, after all, a girl, and that doesn’t seem to be a thing for women.  (Why is that?  Could it somehow be linked to the changeable nature of our last names?  If so, I object!)  However, with startling regularity, people are calling me, “Shel”, which is my name, after all, but a shortened version of what was already a nickname.  My whole life, “Shel” has been reserved, by unspoken agreement, for those with whom I am very close.  I do not introduce myself as “Shel” nor do I suggest that you call me that.  But it’s happening anyway.  It’s not disagreeable, but it does take me aback.  But fair is fair, since I’m not using their given names, I guess anything goes for me, as long as it’s not bad words. (to my face, at least.)

I shall call you "Wrap"!

All this chitchat aside, I am still no closer to understanding the last name game.  It’s like popping bubble wrap.  I can’t tell you why it’s so very fun and satisfying, it just is.  It creates a bond, or is the result of a bond, but either way, it’s nice.  My job is unique.  My guys are counting on me to look out for them as much as I’m counting on them to get where I need them to be.  We can’t just be coworkers, we have to be a team and we have to have each others’ backs.  Last names have helped us get there.  And so long as we can draw the line at the celebratory pats on the ass that men also seem to love, I’m okay with it.

photo credit: www.photo-dictionary.com

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